Leonardo Lacerda, Oak Foundation

TITLE: Director of Enivornment Programme

FUNDING AREAS: Marine conservation, climate change

CONTACT: leonardo.lacerda@oakfnd.ch, 207-347-3166

IP TAKE: It might take a bit of finagling to reach Lacerda because the Oak Foundation does not tend to take phone calls. Also, a recent assessment of the environment program emphasized issues like the "triple bottom lines" and what not, so be prepared for a seriously business-like grantmaking approach.

PROFILE: Leonardo Lacerda knows what he's doing when it comes to protected areas management. Before he became the Environment Programme Director at Oak Foundation, he spent 14 years as a journeyman with the World Wildlife Fund's international network. While there, he served as the Mediterranean Program Director, managed the Global Forest Conservation Program, and was the Program Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean. He was also once a board member for WWF-Spain and WWF-Greece.  And he is a founding member of Fundacao Vitoria Amazonica, an NGO based in Manaus, Brazil.

Based on this pedigree, Lacerda is a noted expert in the fields of sustainability and climate change, in part because he's seen it all. A few years back Lacerda was asked to analyze the impact of the movement toward sustainable development, and he noted that there has been some progress, but not enough, and the same issues that were present in 1987 were still present in 2007; there has to be greater effort to hold back climate change; there has to be a greater effort made to protect rainforests and to preserve biological diversity, both of which are factors in climate change; and more has to be done to restore and maintain marine habitats, especially those that are greatly affected by climate change.

The goal of the Oak Foundation's environmental work is to deal with the rapid transformation of the climate, especially in the northern Pacific and Arctic regions of North America, and to restore as much biological diversity as possible under the circumstances. Unfortunately, temperatures are rising in the area at double the rate of the rest of the world, and the four million people who live in the region and depend on the climate for their livings are being negatively impacted. 

To fend off many of these effects, the foundation tries to invest in efforts by nonprofits that recognize both the cultural diversity of the people who live in the region surrounding the Gulf of Alaska, the Bering Sea, the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea, and the biodiversity of the area. The word "invest" is very important, because it's not looking to donate money without a return. It is trying to reduce over-fishing by introducing fishing practices that promote strong marine ecosystems, while keeping the economic vitality of the communities intact. It also seeks to limit large-scale industrialized fishing through advocacy and litigation when necessary.

For example, some of the largest grants it made last year were to groups whose mission is to restore Alaskan and Yukon fisheries and to introduce sustainable fishing practices in the area. It hasn't made a large number of grants in the area of marine conservation in North America recently, but according to the website, the grants it did make were rather large, mostly in the six-digit range.

To receive consideration for a grant, Oak requires a letter of inquiry first. (Lacerda speaks English, Portuguese, French, Italian and Spanish, so feel free to write your letter in any of those languages.) If interested, the foundation will invite a grant application, based on the strength of the project, and how well it fits within its parameters. There are no set deadlines for letters of inquiry or grant applications, but the process of approving a grant application can take between two and nine months.